‘A new thing to worry about’: Coronavirus adds stress for people with anxiety disorders

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Credit: Mario Azzi/Unsplash

For some of the millions of Americans with post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or other forms of debilitating anxiety, coronavirus is a growing mental health threat.

“For anyone who might have OCD or specific concerns about getting sick, once you start seeing those signs pop up even more, and the Purell is everywhere, it can be really tough,” [said psychologist Krystal Lewis].

The stress of a new thing to worry about can exacerbate the symptoms of PTSD or trigger more frequent panic attacks in people who are prone to them. And it can be especially rough for the approximately 5 percent of adults annually who have illness anxiety disorder, formerly known as hypochondria, and are already predisposed to fear disease.

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For instance, someone might perceive a few headaches and an eye twitch as a brain tumor. And the phenomenon can occur en masse as well, he said — helped along, according to everyone who spoke to The Washington Post for this story, by the relentless 24-hour news cycle.

Fortunately, the advice experts give to a person with a diagnosed anxiety disorder and to a person who is just freaked out because they’ve binged too much cable news is largely the same.

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